A/N: Caution: This story is a sequel to "Finding a Family"; if you haven't read the first story, you may be a little lost in this one (e.g. why on earth does Hermione have access to Snape's personal library?), so it might be worth your time to read that one first. This story is dedicated to all of you who asked for more Hermione in the sequel and also to those who asked for Draco to appear as well. To my astonishment it has turned out to be more about Hermione, Draco, and Snape than I had intended, with poor Harry relegated to a supporting role. Sometimes the characters just take over despite your best intentions, you know? Anyway, rest assured that Harry will make more of an appearance in the next sequel, but I think Draco (and Hermione, of course) are also here to stay. Be warned: this story makes reference to corporal punishment and abuse.
Losing a Book
When all was said and done, Ron ended up owing Harry a Galleon. The redhead had bet it would take Hermione at least a month before she could convince Snape to let her borrow a book from his personal library, but Harry – well aware of the high priority Snape placed on research – was confident that Hermione would win him over well before that.
In actuality, it took her seventeen days.
"Thank you so much, Professor! I promise I'll bring it back next week," Hermione promised, hugging Snape's personal copy of Transfiguration Do's and Don'ts to her chest.
"If you do not, Miss Granger, you should seriously consider transferring to a different school. I am told Australia is lovely this time of year," Snape said without a hint of humor.
She swallowed. "Yes, sir. I understand."
As the three Gryffindors made their way back to their Tower, Ron remonstrated with Hermione. "Why did you want to take his book with you? Aren't there enough in the library for you?"
Hermione regarded the book gloatingly. "This one has the professor's own notes in it! And it's a better edition than the one in the library, too."
Harry and Ron looked at each other, then at her. "You're going to forget to eat again, aren't you?" Harry sighed.
"Oh, stop that," Hermione snapped, but her tone was undeniably distracted. She had already opened the book and was flipping through its pages. The boys exchanged a glance and, each taking an elbow, safely steered their oblivious friend through the corridors.
Three days later, it was a very different Hermione whom they encountered in the Gryffindor Common Room. Ginny had alerted her brother that something was very wrong: Hermione had been up half the night ransacking the girls' dormitory. Harry and Ron found Hermione frantically searching the Common Room, pulling cushions off chairs, pushing couches aside, and even peering under the rugs.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked anxiously.
"You lost it, didn't you?" Ron instantly thought of the worst possible thing that could befall Hermione. "Snape's book. It's missing, right?"
She nodded tearfully. "I don't understand it! I know I had it with me yesterday, because I used it to check my work after Transfigurations. I know I had to take it out of my bag in Potions to get my notes out, but I can't remember when I saw it after that. I've checked everywhere, and I can't find it!"
The boys immediately began helping her search, but even with their help, the book remained stubbornly missing. Finally, Hermione sent the boys down to breakfast and dragged herself along to Professor McGonagall's office. Maybe the witch would know what to do.
"Yes, Miss Granger?" Minerva was alarmed at Hermione's woebegone face. "What's wrong?" A chill ran up her spine, as it always did when one of the Golden Trio presented themselves at her door.
"Oh, Professor, I have a terrible problem," Hermione all but wailed. "I borrowed a book and now I've lost it, and I don't know what to do!"
McGonagall let her breath out in a relieved sigh. Was that all? She schooled her features into a stern frown. "I'm surprised at you, Miss Granger. I would have expected that you, of all people, would look after someone else's property, especially a book!" But at Hermione's quivering lip, she relented, realizing the girl really did feel terrible. "There, there," she said briskly, patting her on the shoulder as she led her over to a chair. "You're not the first student to lose a book, and I'm sure you won't be the last. Madame Pince will –"
Hermione shook her head miserably. "It wasn't a library book, Professor. It was a personal copy."
"Oh, dear. Well, I'm sure you've looked very thoroughly so there's no point in my trying to think of places you haven't searched. Have you tried to retrace your steps?"
"To no avail?"
"Well then, we must assume it is unlikely to turn up. It's not as if it walked away on its own." Minerva gave Hermione a sharp look. "It didn't, did it?"
"No, Professor. It wasn't one of those books," Hermione confirmed.
"Then I suggest that you owl Flourish and Botts and see if they have a replacement copy in stock. Perhaps that will –" But the child was shaking her head again.
"It had notes written in it, Professor. Comments and things like that. A new copy won't have any of that. All that hard work and knowledge is gone. I feel just terrible!" Hermione stifled a sob.
McGonagall managed not to smile. Juvenile jottings in the margins were usually more a source of amusement than assistance in later years, but of course they never appeared that way to the children who scrawled down what they thought were profound observations. She wondered just which student had managed to instill such a sense of awe in Hermione. One of the Ravenclaw upper years, perhaps? "Perhaps you might then provide the book's owner with not only a replacement for the missing text, but a gift certificate for a second book of their choosing? You're only in your second year, Miss Granger; I'm sure the missing notes couldn't have been too extensive."
Hermione stared at her. "It isn't another student's, Professor. The missing book belongs to Professor Snape."
Minerva sank into a chair. "You lost one of Severus' books? Great Merlin's argyle socks!"
Hermione's eyes filled with tears at McGonagall's agitation. "What can I do to make it right, Professor?"
Her Head of House thought frantically. Snape was fanatically possessive about his things; for him to loan something was unusual. To entrust a precious, annotated book to a student was unprecedented. And now Hermione had lost the tome? McGonagall suspected that Snape's response would be extremely unpleasant. "Oh, my dear," she said, putting her arm around Hermione's shoulders. "Oh, my poor child."
McGonagall's sympathy was decidedly unnerving. "Please, Professor, what should I do?" Hermione gulped.
Minerva took a deep breath and tried to be optimistic. Severus was an adult, after all. He would understand that these things happen. Surely he wouldn't strangle one of the best students Hogwarts had seen in a decade over a simple missing book. "I think you should go ahead and contact Flourish and Botts. I understand that you will not be able to reconstruct Professor Snape's notes, but you must make what reparations you can." Hermione nodded obediently. "And of course, you must tell him what has happened. I will accompany you, if you would like." And prevent the infuriated man from turning one of her brightest lions into a pile of potion ingredients.
Hermione's heart sank. "But I have a few more days before he's expecting me to return it, Professor. Can't I wait until then? I might have the new book then and I could give it to him while I apologize…"
McGonagall forced herself to frown. "I expected you to have both more sense and more courage, Miss Granger," she tsk'd. "Professor Snape has a right to know his book has been misplaced. He may have some suggestions as to where to look for it. Besides, you certainly don't want him to learn of your carelessness from anyone but yourself, do you? What if someone finds it and returns it to him?"
Hermione slumped. "Yes, Professor," she said sadly. She knew McGonagall was right, but Merlin, she did not want to have to face Snape.
"Would you like me to come with you?" McGonagall offered again.
"No, thank you, Professor," Hermione replied, after a moment's thought. "I – I was supposed to go to his quarters tonight anyway with Harry and Ron. I'll tell him then."
"Very well. Contact me if there are any… problems."
"Yes, Professor. Thank you."
When Hermione finally caught up with Harry and Ron, she told them what McGonagall had suggested. "… so I went ahead and sent an owl to my parents, asking them for enough money to buy Professor Snape the new books. I'm sure they'll say yes, so I also owled Flourish and Botts and asked them to put a copy aside." She sighed unhappily. "Not that I think it will make any difference to Professor Snape. He's going to be furious."
Harry chewed his lower lip anxiously. He hated the thought of one of his friends getting into trouble, but he was sure that Hermione's apprehension was justified. "I just don't see how the book vanished. It doesn't make sense that it was in your bag and then gone. You're the one who's always so careful about your stuff."
"Wait a second," Ron said, "wasn't Malfoy sitting near you in Potions yesterday? He seemed awfully pleased about something when we were all leaving class yesterday. What if that little ferret took it?"
"When? And why?"
"Maybe when we were all going up to the front to turn in our potions? And as for why, who knows why that git does anything? Just to get you in trouble probably."
"I don't know," Harry said doubtfully. "I mean, yes, Malfoy's an evil arse, but to steal something like that?"
"I think you should talk to him before you tell Snape. If he has it, maybe you can get him to give it back. If he doesn't, well, it won't hurt anything because you're going to tell Snape anyway, so it's not like Malfoy can go running to him and get you in trouble."
Hermione considered Ron's words. "I can't believe even Malfoy would be low enough to take a book out of my bag, but I guess it's worth a try."
"You want us to help you talk to him?" Harry offered.
"No – with you two along, he'll insist on having Crabbe and Goyle with him and then he'll never admit anything and you'll just start fighting," Hermione said primly.
"Ha!" Ron scoffed. "Like you've never hit Malfoy!"
"Yeah," Harry grinned. "He's more likely to keep his goons around him when you're there!"
Hermione glared at both of them and would have argued further, but just at that moment she caught sight of Malfoy leaving the Great Hall. "Stay here!" she ordered her friends, hurrying after the blond Slytherin.
Meanwhile, Snape noted Hermione's abrupt departure and left the staff table in pursuit. Earlier that morning, a house elf had popped into his quarters and returned his copy of Transfiguration Do's and Don'ts, explaining that it had been discarded in the trash. He was eager to interrogate Miss Granger as to how a book in her care should have been so shamefully mishandled.
"Malfoy!" Hermione called, catching up to the boys as they headed back to the dungeons.
Surprised, Draco and his friends turned around. "Well, well, if it isn't Potter's pet mudblood," Draco sneered.
"I need to talk to you, Malfoy," she retorted, reddening but holding her ground – and her temper.
"Like I care what you need," he sniffed and turned to go.
"Talk to me now or to Professor Snape later," Hermione said coldly.
He spun back. "What are you talking about?" She folded her arms implacably, and he glanced at the two boys who flanked him. "Get lost," he ordered.
When the two hulks hesitated, he shoved them. "I said go!"
Aggrieved, they lumbered off. "Don't come crying to us when she punches you in the nose again," Goyle threw over his shoulder.
Draco tugged her into a shadowy corridor. "What's so important, Granger?" he demanded.
Hermione forced her voice to remain calm and even. "I'm missing a book, Draco. I had it in our last Potions class, and I'm wondering if you might have… found it." She knew that accusing the boy of stealing the book would just result in an immediate denial and hoped that approaching it this way might yield better results.
Draco raised his eyebrows. "A book?" he echoed innocently. In that moment, Hermione knew full well he had taken it. "Good heavens, Granger. I can't imagine you losing a book."
"Draco, it's really important. I need that book back. Please, if you have it, give it back to me," Hermione pleaded desperately.
"Are you accusing me of stealing, mudblood?" Draco's eyes narrowed, and for a moment he actually felt insulted. Just because he had stolen the book didn't mean he'd let some stupid Gryffindor blame him when it was obvious she had no proof.
"Draco, please. It's not my book. I had just borrowed it."
He shrugged and turned away, unwilling to admit she was beginning to make him feel guilty. "Not my problem, Granger."
"Please, Draco!" Hermione caught his arm. "It belongs to Professor Snape! If you have it, you've got to give it back."
Draco swung back, his eyes wide. "Snape let you take one of his books out of his quarters?" he gasped. "He doesn't let anyone do that except –" he bit back his words, but his anger soared. He was the only one his godfather trusted with his precious books! How could Snape let a Muggleborn, and a Gryffindor at that, borrow from his library? Any compunction Draco might have felt at Hermione's anxiety vanished in a surge of jealousy.
To make matters worse, Snape knew perfectly well that Lucius was anything but satisfied with the fact that Hermione routinely outscored Draco. Over summer break, Lucius had threatened to punish Draco severely if the boy didn't get better grades than Hermione, and yet now even his own godfather was helping her outshine him.
Transfigurations was the one class in which Draco and Hermione were neck and neck. The notion that Hermione might be able to better her performance through the use of a supplementary text was what had prompted Draco to lift the book in the first place. He had managed to convince himself that her use of the text was tantamount to cheating, so his actions were wholly justified. Now, knowing that the book came from his godfather made him even more determined to see her fail. He had no doubt but that Snape would be furious with the girl for losing his book, and that would mean once again, no one but Draco would be allowed to use his library. What's more, Draco knew his godfather nursed grudges, and this could mean that Granger's Potions grade would suffer. Maybe he could manage to beat her in two classes – that would certainly please his father and might be enough to avoid the promised punishment with Lucius' cane.
Hermione hoped that Draco's expression of shock meant that he had finally realized the seriousness of what he had done. She pressed her suit. "Please help me. If you have any idea where the book is, I'd be very grateful."
"How grateful?" Draco asked, an idea forming.
Hermione sighed. "What do you want?"
The Slytherin looked crafty. "You must want the book back really badly."
She nodded grimly. "You know I do. What will it take?"
"I'm not saying I know anything, mind you, but maybe if I didn't have to study so hard in order to get the top marks, I might be able to look around and find your book for you."
It took a moment, and then Hermione looked utterly shocked. "You want me to do badly on a test? Deliberately?"
"It's not like you have anything else I'd want, mudblood," Draco snarled. Stupid girl! It's not like she understood anything. She certainly didn't get thrashed if she wasn't head of the class. Oh no, her Muggle parents probably just gave her extra pudding and a trip to the bookstore. It's not as if they understood anything about the Wizarding world in the first place. She didn't know what it was like to have had generations of pureblood expectations weighting down your shoulders since the day you were born. She didn't know how followers of Lord Voldemort punished failure. She didn't have a father who was fanatical on the topic of pureblood superiority and expected his son to embody that supremacy in everything he did – or else. By Lucius' standards, Draco had the bloodlines to succeed in all his endeavors. It necessarily followed, then, that if he wasn't the best, it was because he wasn't trying. And laziness was something that Lucius firmly believed could be beaten out of a boy.
No, Granger didn't have a clue. She was just skipping merrily through life, thinking that having Snape shout at her was the end of the world. The professor couldn't even touch her – she was a Gryffindor and completely outside his authority, so what was she worried about?
Hermione's lips tightened. "All right. We have a test today in Potions. I'll be sure to answer one of the essay questions wrong. That should mean you'll get the best score. Now give me the book."
"Not so fast," Draco countered. "You said you really wanted the book back. You think throwing a single test is enough?"
"Malfoy, I am not going to destroy my entire scholastic career over this!"
"Throw the Potions test today and tomorrow's Transfiguration practical, and then I'll give you the book."
"No," Hermione countered, her face tight with anger. "I'm not about to ruin my average and then have you refuse to give me the book. Hand it over first."
"Right," Draco sneered. "Because once you have the book back, you'll still be so motivated to honor our bargain."
"All right. I'll throw the Potions test today, then you give me the book, then I'll make sure you get a higher grade in Transfigurations tomorrow."
Draco considered. He had handed the book off to Goyle immediately after Potions with orders to get rid of it. He hadn't wanted to risk being caught with the evidence in case Granger or someone else had seen him pinch it. As far as he knew, Gregory had long since disposed of the book, presumably by feeding it to the Squid or some other, equally permanent, method. However, even if he couldn't return the book to Granger, by then she still would have done poorly on the Potions test, and Snape would hardly be in the mood to let her retake the exam, even if she poured out the whole story.
Even if he couldn't string her along long enough to mess up deliberately in Transfigurations, she'd probably be so furious with him for tricking her, and for herself for lowering her Potions grade for nothing, that she'd still have problems on tomorrow's practical exam. Transfigurations were fiddly things at the best of times, and trying them when upset was a great way to get all sorts of unexpected results. Draco grinned to himself. Yes, he thought it was very likely that he'd end up at the top of the class in both Potions and Transfigurations after all.
"So is this how purebloods convince others of their superiority?" Hermione asked contemptuously. "By cheating? Will it really make you feel smart, Draco, knowing that the only reason you're getting the top marks is because I deliberately answered incorrectly?"
"You don't know anything about how I feel!" Draco spat back, stung. How dare she look at him like that, as if it was all about his ego. Sure, if he were only interested in the prestige that went along with having the highest grades, then it might make him squirm to know that he cheated his way to the top. But since he was doing this in order to save himself from a merciless caning, he wasn't so interested in the little niceties. He'd do whatever it took to avoid being beaten bloody, thank you very much, and if the little mudblood thought the less of him for it, he'd somehow manage to live with himself.
Hermione threw up her hands in disgust. "You're pathetic, Malfoy."
"Just remember the deal, Granger. Be sure to miss a couple of questions."
She just shook her head and walked away, leaving Draco free to rejoin Crabbe and Goyle in the dungeons.
Snape followed Granger as she headed towards the dungeons. He was about to overtake her when he heard her call to his godson. Curious, he faded into the shadows in order to eavesdrop. Once a spy, always a spy.
What could the two of them have to discuss? While there had been odder pairings in the history of Hogwarts, Granger and Malfoy certainly weren't a couple that anyone had predicted. Nor had they shown any signs of mutual attraction while in his quarters.
He listened in on the conversation, only planning to stay hidden long enough to satisfy his curiosity. After that, he would loom out of the darkness and chastise them for engaging in the activity for which most students lurked in the shadows. But to Snape's surprise, the two weren't sneaking off for some illicit snogging. He listened with growing outrage as the plot unfolded. So Granger had been careless enough to leave his book out for Draco to pilfer? And, even worse, the boy was now blackmailing her to improve his grades? And, worst of all, Granger was agreeing to cheat – under Snape's very nose?
It took all of Snape's control not to swoop down on the two conspirators right then and there. Connive to destroy his grading system, would they? This called for a very special response. After the two children had parted ways, Snape stalked to his office, plotting his own course of action.